Developing a brand identity

The word ‘branding’ has become more and more loosely applied, to the point where its true definition is generally misunderstood by small business owners.

This is possibly due to fact that they have been misguided by inexperienced agencies or single operators, such as graphic designers, who are trying to extend their area of expertise beyond what it really is. This is especially noticeable in regional markets.

Just for starters, I’d like to make one thing very clear; logo development and the branding process are not the same thing!

A logo is a commercial tool that serves only one purpose; to be easily recognised as a device that represents an entity. It does not encapsulate the whole brand identity, so there is no point getting carried away with ‘over designed’ logos which try to be too smart and represent too many offerings. There are many businesses/ brands out there with unattractive logos that still succeed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to have a logo that is striking and something for the business to be proud of, but it’s not the end of the journey as far as the branding process is concerned.

Picture it this way; a brand name can be likened to a person’s full name, with the logo as a signature or a passport photo. These items just confirm who you are, and by no means reflect what type of person you are. Unfortunately, as many businesses don’t fully understand the meaning of a true ‘brand identity’, they can be guided through over complicated logo development (made even harder when the decision is driven by a committee) as they try to fit the whole business story into a device.

In our book, a logo should represent the pride of a business and its culture. More importantly, it should have the right feel, as it’s going to be out there in the market place competing against similar services or offerings for a long time. Ultimately, good logo development is an art, not a science!

Whether you want to hear this or not, in most cases, your prospective customers couldn’t care less about your logo! What will ultimately resonate with them is how you reflect your identity (brand story) by demonstrating a connection between them and your brand. In other words, positioning your brand to attract the appropriate target market…that’s the science part! This process is not a simple task and requires a balance between experienced commercial and marketing strategists and creative minds.

Brand positioning is an essential step to have in place before developing a marketing communication plan – it’s an evolving process, and it’s important to ensure it always complimenting the logo. When the logo and brand positioning are combined, they should reflect the most current ‘brand story’, as over time, the brand position can be reviewed, but a logo is not a tool to be changed regularly – if ever!

So, how do you position the brand? There are many matrices out there with lots of bells and whistles (some are trademarked by various marketers), but ultimately it’s about using common sense by looking for answers in two areas:

  1. The purpose for the brand’s existence: Why does the brand exist? For this, we refer to the ‘4Ps’ marketing mix.
  2. The purpose relating to the customer’s experience: Who can benefit from the brand and why? For this, we refer to the ‘4Cs’ marketing mix.

A brand with solid foundations will always need less marketing activity (which means less marketing costs) in order to develop its brand equity. Ultimately, the ‘equity’ is what makes the customer use the brand!

In summary, experienced marketers know that without positioning (or re-positioning) a brand, you cannot expect to effectively connect with your target market regardless of how pretty your logo is. So that’s why I say that branding is not just a job for a designer, it really requires the input of someone with brand marketing skills.

Spearhead has developed successful brands for many small and medium size businesses with passionate operators who understand the need to have their brand built properly, while they get on doing what they do best.

Dom Ogun
Head of Strategy